published Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Roberts: Must you love politics to get things done?


by Dalton Roberts

The question today is: Does a person have to love politics to be good at it?

The answer is: of course not.

It is certainly true that we learn things we love much more quickly, but I have seen too many people who dislike politics yet become very good at it. So I do not apply this generally sound rule to politics since I have seen so many exceptions.

Two people who love politics and have gotten good at it are Ward Crutchfield and Curtis Adams.

In all my years of political participation and observation, I’ve never seen anyone who loved politics like Ward. In a column commenting on my deepest regret about his getting caught and convicted as a felon in The Tennessee Waltz corruption sting, I expressed sadness that it would probably end his life in politics, which essentially would amount to ending his life since politics has been his only interest.

When a few people were talking him up as a potential candidate in the recent city races, I wrote that The Tennessee Waltz had probably ended his career in politics. This was not a declaration of my desire because he is one of the most effective politicians I have known. It was simply a statement of the facts of life.

Typical of his deep immersion in politics is this story from my years at the Hamilton County courthouse when I was county executive. He called wanting to have dinner, and I said, “OK, but can we leave the political talk off?”

He said, “Sure. I promise.”

His assistant, Betty Johnson, was on the line, and I heard her laugh.

When we met at Acropolis that night, he immediately launched into politics, and we both laughed. He is as addicted to politics as any heroin addict who ever stuck a needle in his arm.

Curtis Adams says his addiction to politics came when I appointed him as chairman of the county’s personnel committee. He did a splendid job in that capacity and later it was great to see him elected to the county commission.

There is never a dull moment when Curtis is around. He’s always playing tricks on people or telling hilarious stories. Of all the people I’ve ever met in politics, Curtis is the funniest. Strangely, he also did a good job, in my opinion.

I have a few suggestions for people who are interested in running for office.

The first is to completely fall in love with what you can accomplish in politics, accomplishments that happen in no other field of work.

When I was in my 20s, I joined the Chattanooga Jaycees. In those days, the Jaycees were a driving force in community betterment. I quickly saw the power of politics because, every time I took on a project, I had to get the support of at least one elected official. It did not make me want to serve, but it clearly showed the way to get things done in a community.

Believe it or not, I never enjoyed many things about politics, but I loved seeing great dreams become bricks and mortar, working with a staff of incredibly gifted people and working shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful people in town.

When I say I miss politics, those are the things I’m missing.

Contact Dalton Roberts at downhomep@aol.com.

about Dalton Roberts...

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